During my September 2022 trip to Orlando, I got to experience a night at Howl-O-Scream. My friend Tom of Vacationeers Podcast had an extra ticket. He foolishly asked me to use that ticket. Still being a spooky season amateur, I had never been to any spooky event at the Busch family of theme parks. This year functions as only the second year that an after-hours spooky event was held at SeaWorld Orlando. In Florida, this style Howl-O-Scream event has been happening at Busch Gardens Tampa for many years.
Since SeaWorld resides so close to Universal Orlando, the comparisons between the two events happen naturally. Those comparisons can be helpful. For example, Halloween Horror Nights (HHN) has 10 houses whereas Howl-O-Scream (HOS) offers 5 houses. The scare zone set-up at HOS looks very different to HHN. HHN involves large crowds. HOS seemed far more casual.
For HOS, guests were to be allowed inside the park at 6pm with the event starting at 7pm. The HOS entrance differs in terms of location from the standard day guest entrance. On our night, we arrived before 6pm. A great deal of confusion and/or disorganization emanated from the entrance procedure. Guests were allowed entrance a bit after 6pm however.
At this point, guests enter a scare zone area near an exit to a haunted house. This area offers many scare actors and dancers to distract the guests while waiting for the 7pm opening. The scare actors did a good job but with full daylight they are limited in options. All HOS guests entering the event before 7pm wait in this type of holding area with a bar, some food options, and a merchandise store.
At about 7pm, HOS guests enter the park via the HOS entrance. The layout of the event within SeaWorld causes confusion since things are not well marked. However, this will cause guests to enter the scare zones more often. These scare zones lack the extensive props of HHN. Still, the interaction with guests will seem far less scripted than at HHN. Though I did not have any real back and forth interactions with the scare actors. I did witness others having very positive interactions with scare actors during this event, however.
The five haunted houses at HOS did not impress me. I understand that I had a bad run in at least two of them though. Yet, this aspect of the event will need to improve significantly to compete evenly with HHN. Also, groups “pulse” through the houses at HOS as opposed to push through in a type of conga line like at HHN. Though you cannot stop and smell the roses (or blood in this case), you will find your trip through each house easier with fewer people. This should increase your chances of enjoying all aspects of the house and the scares contained within.
I only watched one show during my night at HOS. I enjoyed the “Monster Stomp” show. Though the plot line of this show goes beyond just creepy. The quality of vocals and musical accompaniment shines in this spooky production.
For me, the ability to ride two of the rollercoasters, Mako and Manta, in the darkness served as highlights for this evening. I have not been to SeaWorld in a while, so I enjoyed those coasters. If you attend this event, make sure you know how to find those coasters if desiring to ride them. The HOS park layout involves going through some back areas instead of the standard pattern during daytime operations. In addition, Icebreaker was supposed to be open during the event, but I never opened that night.
The HOS event looks and sounds a bit more adult than even HHN. If bringing younger people or those adverse to such things, consider this.
Overall, this event makes a good value. Tickets to this event cost far less than HHN and of course the non-spooky Halloween event at Magic Kingdom. If desired, a multi-night ticker could have been purchased for less than a daytime admission to most Orlando area theme parks. Sure, the operation could have been far smoother. Still, I suspect in a few years this event will have those issues worked out
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